Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Shuttle Winners Announced; Losers Threaten Investigations
Democratic U.S. Senator from Ohio Sherrod Brown says he'll have
NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden investigated for not giving his state an orbiter.
Atlantis to the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex. Discovery to the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center. Endeavour to the California Science Center in Exposition Park in downtown Los Angeles. Enterprise to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City.
CNN has an overview, along with many other web sites.
Florida Today reports the losers are already threatening political retaliation against NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden.
Lawmakers from states that weren’t named on Tuesday to receive a retired space shuttle threatened investigations and said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden didn’t follow the law ...
Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas noted — as she has many times recently in pushing for her state to get a shuttle — that federal law says locations with a historic relationship to the space program should get first dibs on a retired shuttle.
"I just fail to believe that the law was followed," Hutchison said. "I'm very disappointed."
Tuesday’s announcement also came as a major let-down to Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio ...
Brown said he’ll ask the Government Accountability Office to investigate what he called the lack of geographic diversity in the winning cities, all located near a coast.
Houston Chronicle reporter Eric Berger claims partisan politics were to blame.
... I'm not sure any campaign could have saved Houston. The politics of this decision were pretty clear. President Obama appoints the NASA administrator, and Texas is a decidedly Republican state.
"It is sad and unfortunate that politics played such an obvious role in the placement of theses retiring Orbiters," said Texas Congressman John Culberson. "The thought of an Orbiter not coming home to rest at Space Center Houston is truly tragic. It is analogous to Detroit without a Model-T, or Florence without a da Vinci."
The problem with this theory is that Florida, which received Atlantis, has an overwhelmingly Republican state legislature, and one of its two U.S. Senators is also a Republican.
UPDATE 8:15 PM EDT — SpacePolicyOnline.com reports that "Five members of the Ohio congressional delegation are calling for a Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation of how the locations — three on the east coast, one on the west coast, none in the center of the country — were chosen."
In a letter to the head of GAO, Brown and four Ohio Representatives — Marcy Kaptur, Michael Turner, Steve Austria, and Steve LaTourette — asked for a "review of the policies and practices" of NASA and the Smithsonian Institution's "disposition of the shuttle program related property." The letter cites language in the 2008 and 2010 NASA Authorization Acts stipulating how the process was to be carried out.
Kaptur is a Democrat. Turner, Austria and LaTourette are Republicans.
Pork is a bipartisan pastime.
Similar political intimidation was attempted in June 2010 when certain members of Congress accused Bolden of illegally terminating Constellation and demanded he be investigated by the GAO. The report issued a month later concluded the charges were baseless.
UPDATE 8:30 PM EDT — The Cleveland Plain Dealer adds this arrogant quote from Senator Brown:
"NASA ignored the intent of Congress and the interests of taxpayers," Brown said in a press statement. "NASA was directed to consider regional diversity when determining shuttle locations. Unfortunately, it looks like regional diversity amounts to which coast you are on, or which exit you use on I-95. Even more insulting to taxpayers is that having paid to build the shuttles, they will now be charged to see them at some sites."
UPDATE April 13, 2011 5:15 AM EDT — Add Republican congressman Michael McCaul from Texas to the list of losers demanding an investigation. To quote from his own press release:
"It is truly shameful that the Obama administration has snubbed a city that has supported the Space Shuttle Program like no other. Houston is home to a generation of astronauts, scientists and engineers at the Johnson Space Center who have guided every shuttle mission and who have personally grieved the loss of friends and family who gave their lives in the name of space exploration. On this historic day their unmatched contributions are ignored in favor of two states, New York and California, whose investment in America's space program pales in comparison."
Congressman McCaul is requesting a hearing before the Science, Space and Technology Committee to investigate the administration's decision-making process.
Apaprently McCaul knows little about the history of "America's space program." The Shuttle was designed and built in Southern California, and during its early years landed most of the time at Edwards Air Force Base. Before that, North American Aviation in Downey built the Apollo command and service module and the second stage of the Saturn V rocket. Claiming that California has little "investment in America's space program" undermines his heated rhetoric.
The Space Politics web site has more.
UPDATE April 13, 2011 6:30 AM EDT — Add Oklahoma's Republican U.S. Senator James Inhofe to the chorus of boos. From his press release:
"The vastly imaginative minds that sent our nation into space failed to think outside the box with today’s decision that appears grounded in politics," said Inhofe. "I am extremely proud of the team at the Tulsa Air and Space Museum who put together a great plan. The costs associated with the shuttle would have been steep, but ever since I was mayor, we have declared Tulsa the aviation capital, and this would have certainly enhanced that. Tulsa’s plan would have made the shuttle orbiter the centerpiece of an ambitious education effort for the entire central region of the United States. Today’s announcement is indeed disappointing."
Show of hands ... All of you who, when you think of the Space Shuttle, the first place that comes to mind is Tulsa.
UPDATE April 15, 2011 — CNN reports the Texas House delegation in Congress is "prepared to use their power in Congress, 'including legislation to prevent funding of the transfer, to stop this wasteful decision.'"
Of course, if they had such "power," perhaps they wouldn't have lost.
Let's do some basic math ... Number of representatives by state:
New York: 29
So that's 107 delegates from winning states, 32 delegates from Texas, and only 17 of the 32 signed the threatening letter.
Don't expect this latest threat to go very far.